Sunday the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had an article complaining that the reworked school funding equalization formula was biased toward Metro Counties specifically Gwinnett. Democrats pounced on the article as proof of Republican’s lack of support for rural public schools.
Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-John’s Creek) worked on the bill that created the new equalization formula and takes issue with several claims made in the AJC article. Mike also produced a map showing which Counties gained and lost funding under the new formula.
Response by Rep. Dudgeon
I tend to forgive the AJC or other media outlets when they get details on a story wrong, but I feel I must respond to the Sunday front page story that in many ways was 180 degrees apart from the truth. Peach Pundit picked it up and echoed it in their Monday email blast.
Equalization is a complicated funding formula designed to give more state funds to counties where the property tax digest is lower than the state average. Local school boards fund themselves with a mix of local property tax and state funding. We rank the systems on what each gets in revenue per mill of tax, per child. That really shows how much ability the local board has to raise money.
Because with the old formula more and more money was going to relatively better off counties, such as Gwinnett and Cherokee, we passed a change last year in my bill HB 824. More funding is directed to the counties on the bottom of the wealth rankings. In fact, the 74 lowest wealth districts get more money in FY14 with this change. The graphic with the article shows the areas impacted. With the change, Gwinnett got $13 million less in FY13 and $6.6 million less in FY14. In a magnanimous gesture, almost the entire Gwinnett delegation voted for this bill even though it cut their funding, as they knew it was the right policy. The AJC article instead implied that the formula was rigged in favor of Gwinnett due to its large representation.
The article also implied the governor put in around $40 million in new money that was directed towards Gwinnett and the metro counties. This also is 100% not true; that money is by law applied proportionally across the board.
Yes some counties in the “middle” of the wealth rankings receive less money, but any time you change a formula in the law there are going to be winners and losers. No formula is perfect but this one is well grounded in both policy and math.
The moral of the story – even when the Republican legislature tries to help poorer areas, the AJC still is going to attack us and make us look bad.
Map of impact on Counties.